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A Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación with Meddeas – Interview with Two Participants

To be honest, there is no “typical day” in this program. In a way, that’s the beauty of this experience: there are no standards in a day in the life of an auxiliar de conversación. While the unknowns between being accepted to the program and actually arriving in Spain may be a bit nerve-wracking at first, it’s pretty amazing knowing that you’re having a one-of-a-kind experience. The fact that there are so many ways for your year in Spain to pan out shows that there is no “one size fits all” participant. While every assistant shares the same drive and desire to share their language and culture while soaking up that of Spain, we come from many different backgrounds and places around the world and we all have our own way of simultaneously immersing our students in our language while we are immersed in their culture.

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A Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación

Almost every region in Spain has different dialects and/or languages.

Every city has its own traditions and holidays.

Every school has its own rules, expectations, and culture.

And every language assistant has its own unique experience within their school.

That being said, here is a look at the typical day of two participants. While there are many differences in the daily operations of their schools, they both share the same drive to make a difference and gain perspective every step of the way during their Meddeas experiences. These testimonials are a great way to approach what a day in the life of an auxiliar de conversación with Meddeas is actually like.

Annamica and Matthew’s Interview: Getting a Glimpse of a Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación

Share bit about yourself: Where are you from? What is your educational background? Do you have experience teaching or working with children?

Annamica: I’m from rural Arkansas (USA) and I went to small, public schools until I went to college. I studied Psychology and International studies at the University of Dallas, and I became an auxiliar with Meddeas the summer after graduating. I’ve taught to children in many capacities since I was a young teenager, from babysitting to leading a community girls club to math tutoring to volunteering in hospitals and my church.

Matthew: I’m from a suburban city in the San Francisco Bay Area in California (USA.) I studied Economics and Finance as well as Computer Science at the University of Dallas. After graduating, I came to Spain. My experience teaching children involves being a counselor at a summer camp, teaching game design and robotics classes at tech summer camps, as well as doing math tutoring.

What is your Meddeas placement? What kind of school do you teach at? How old are the students?

Annamica: I was placed in Seville, in a Catholic secondary and vocational school for girls. That means I teach to ages 12-16 in secondary, and my vocational students are 18 and older. I even have some students that are in their 30’s and 40’s! However, most of the vocational students are around my own age. My school is located in a very old, picturesque building in the city center. While it’s a bit small for the number of students, it has the typical Spanish architecture of a large interior patio, beautiful tile work, and big, wooden doors and windows.

Matthew: I was placed in Seville, in a private primary and secondary school for boys, and I teach to students aged 6 to 16. My school is actually in a town called Espartinas, which is located outside of Seville. The school itself is pretty new, and it’s very modern and tech-savvy.

A Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación

Annamica in her school in Sevilla

What are the hours of your school in your day to day life?

Annamica: Secondary students start at 8:00 or 9:00 each morning depending on the day and grade level, and they end at 2:30 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and at 6:00 pm on Tuesday and Thursday. The vocational students come to school in two different batches. Some groups come from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm, while others come from 3:00 pm to 8: 30 pm. Since I teach both secondary and vocational students, my schedule is kind of all over the place. I teach a total of 24 hours per week, and some days I start at 8:00 am and finish at 2:30 pm, and others I start at 11:30 am and finish at 6:00 pm. Some days I have my classes all in a row, and other days I have breaks in between some classes.

Matthew: My school goes from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, although given the bus ride, my day starts at 8:00 am and ends at almost 6:00 pm. Because my school is so far from anything else, I have to stay at the school, included the hours I’m not teaching. This gives me time to plan for lessons or work on other personal projects. My schedule is different each day, but in general, I am teaching 4 to 5 hours a day, for a total of 24 hours per week.

What is your commute to school like?

Annamica: I got very, very lucky in this aspect! I ended up living very close to my school – less than five minutes walking. That’s probably not typical for most auxiliares with Meddeas, but I’m grateful because it allows me to go home or run errands on my breaks if I want.

Matthew: I take the same bus to school as the students do*. The bus stop is a few minutes walk from my house, and the ride itself takes about 40-45 minutes. The bus is not your typical American school bus and is more of what you call a “coach” or “tour” bus. While I’m grateful to not have to take public transportation, regardless the commute adds an additional hour and a half to my day since I live in the city center.

* Sometimes participants can use the school bus, but it’s not guaranteed or part of the program

What is your main role in a typical day at school?

Annamica (graduate program): My role mainly consists of pulling two students out of class at a time and helping them improve their conversational skills. We focus on being able to communicate effectively and comfortably using English. My teaching space is called the English Corner, which is located in the secondary hallway. In some classes, I also assist the English teacher for part of the class time by helping lead activities and verbally correct homework with the students. This is A Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación!

day to day auxiliar de conversacion

Matthew with a small group of students

Matthew (graduate program): My main role is to prepare the students for the Cambridge English exam. As I help teach a wide variety of ages, this means a lot of different things. For the younger students, I mainly use pictures and games, whereas, for the older students, the time is focused much more on conversations. Most of the material is geared directly towards test prep, and I even help with “mock examinations” occasionally. Regardless of the age, I usually teach to two or three students at a time, and we use whatever classroom is available.

Do you teach any extracurricular classes?

Annamica: Yes, I help teach a class called Live English for 45 minutes twice a week. There are ten students, who are mostly from the first-year secondary class (7th grade). The main goals of that class are that the students are speaking English and moving around, so we play lots of games and occasionally do some theater activities as well.

Matthew: Yes, I teach a Cambridge test prep class for those struggling with the B1 level. It is twice a week for an hour and has students from different years of secondary. In this class, we mainly use test preparation worksheets that cover reading, writing, listening, and speaking. While doesn’t make for the most exciting classes, it is a very effective way to prepare for the exam.

What is lunchtime like at your school?

Annamica: My school is a bit untraditional in this aspect, I think. Secondary students only stay in school for lunch two days per week; the other days they are dismissed at 2:30 pm and eat lunch in their homes. A classroom is turned into a makeshift cafeteria on Tuesdays and Thursdays because the students have class until 6:00 pm on those days. The school doesn’t provide lunch, so the students (and teachers) bring their own food. As I mentioned, I live very close to my school, so I go home to eat lunch every day.

Matthew: My school provides lunch for its students and teachers. Part of my role includes helping monitor the cafeteria three hours a week. The food is mainly traditional Spanish food (or as traditional as a school cafeteria can get), and it’s nice to not have to worry about bringing a lunch to school. My school also provides the teachers with a breakfast of bread, meats, and cheese, as well as coffee.

What is recess like at your school?

Annamica: We have the recess for 25 minutes every morning at 11:00. The secondary students spend recess in the school patio and the vocational students are free to go wherever they please. Everyone eats a mid-morning snack at this time. The school sells freshly baked chocolate croissants during recess most days, which I love to indulge in! There are some community snacks in the teacher’s lounge at recess some days too, especially when it’s a teacher’s birthday.

Matthew: My school has a lot of recess time, which is staggered between the upper and lower grades. In the morning the students get 30 minutes to have a snack and play in the courtyard. In the afternoon, they get almost two hours to eat and play. The students almost exclusively play soccer on the blacktop, and because of limited space, there are often multiple games played almost on top of each other.

How autonomous are you in your school? Do you teach closely with teachers? Is there another Meddeas auxiliar in your school?

typical day with Meddeas

Annamica in the English corner

Annamica: I collaborate very closely with the two English teachers at my school, one of which is my mentor teacher. One of them prefers that I join her inside the classroom for half of the period most days, and then I choose which students I want to call out of class to take to the English Corner. The other teacher prefers to choose the students that I take out of class to take to the English Corner and rarely asks me to assist in leading activities. Both are very accessible and friendly to me, we talk each day in and sometimes out of school. I’m the only auxiliar de conversación in my school.

Matthew: I am mostly autonomous at my school. I have a schedule to go by, and the goal of preparing students for the Cambridge exam. My mentor teacher gave me material to teach with, and if I want, I can develop my own. I don’t assist teachers in the classroom but instead, take students out of class. It’s also up to me to decide which students to take out, and how often. I don’t consult much with my mentor teacher, but he and other teachers are there if I have questions. There is another Meddeas participant at my school who helps with the German classes. However, he speaks English and it’s really nice to have another person at school who can relate to my situation.

How Will the Interview Process Affect the Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación?

Meddeas asks four important questions to applicants throughout the interview process:

  1. What age group(s) do you prefer to teach?
  2. Which kind of school do you prefer to teach in?
  3. What size city do you prefer to be placed in?
  4. What extracurricular classes would you be interested/willing to teach?

These questions, which are asked repeatedly throughout the interview process, help Meddeas understand what you’re looking for in this experience. Be honest in your answers. If you’re not comfortable teaching pre-schoolers, don’t say that you are. If you’re not comfortable teaching in a religious school, don’t say that you are. They ask these questions not to test your versatility, but to understand enough about you to allocate you in the most suitable school.

While the average of a Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación in Spain can vary widely, we all have the opportunity to do our best and to give back as much as we can to our schools and communities.

By Annamica R. and Matthew K., 2017/2018

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If you enjoyed this post about a day in the life of an auxiliar de conversación, don’t miss out the following articles:

  1. How to Fit into Schools in Spain: 12 Tips to Blend In with Colleagues and Students
  2. Teaching ESL in Spain: a Day in the Life at Zalima
  3. Have You Ever… Been a Language Assistant in Spain?
  4. Diary of a Language Assistant

How Independent and Curious Spirits Find a Suitable Work Experience Abroad

All Meddeas participants have several key things in common. To begin with (and most obviously), we are all in Spain to gain relevant work experience. However, we also share a love of travel, an independent spirit, and a desire to learn as well as teach. Despite these commonalities, our work experience will likely be as diverse as our personal backgrounds.

Work Experience Abroad in a Highly Dynamic Role as Conversation Assistants

work experience

That’s me in the English Corner

Our day-to-day roles are largely determined by the school in which we are placed and the region in which our school is located. Therefore, I offer the following overview of my work experience in Spain to prospective and future participants with the caveat that, while your time in Spain might closely resemble mine in certain aspects, your adventure will be unique in many ways!

The School: Main Aspect of this Professional Work Experience

Allocation Process and Support

Throughout my interview process, Meddeas staff asked me about different aspects of the placement, such as the students’ ages, the kind of program or school, and my interests. I stated that I was comfortable to teach in any type of school Meddeas could offer, including non-religious and religious institutions. Given this, I was not at all surprised when I was offered a placement in a private all-girls Catholic school just outside of Seville. As it turns out, the Catholic environment at the school is comfortable and much more relaxed than I anticipated. Overall, my experience teaching and living in Seville has been one of the best of my adult life.

I have been very fortunate to have a supportive and welcoming group of teachers to cooperate with every day. Though my assigned tutor is my support for administrative purposes, all of the secondary English teachers offer me help and guidance whenever I need it.

My Role in this Work Experience in Spain: the English Corner

My primary role at my school is as the English Corner “teacher” for all the secondary level English courses. This basically means that I help all of the secondary girls (ages 12-18) on their speaking skills and help prepare them to take their Cambridge examinations at the end of the year. This preparation most often takes the form of fifteen-minute sessions with two girls at a time.

As secondary spans such a wide range of ages, I have about 18 different classes that I see in a given week, from first ESO (ages 12-13) to first Bachillerato (ages 16-17). Because each English class contains over twenty girls, I often only see one-third of a class each hour. Each English class is also working towards a different Cambridge exam, depending on the age and skill level of the girls. I design speaking lesson plans to mimic and adapt to the Cambridge speaking exam at its various levels of difficulty. Though fast-paced, I find my English Corner lessons to be exciting and enjoyable, and nearly all of my girls are curious and eager to practice English.

 Other Activities I Get Involved in at School

work experience abroad

Activity to teach about the US in a fun way

In addition to my regular speaking classes, I began teaching separately in January to Second Bachillerato level students (17-18 years old) on their speaking skills, specifically those girls who need to achieve a certain Cambridge English certification before entering university this fall. This trimester, I also began teaching a review class once a week for twenty students in first ESO who did not pass their first evaluation exam in English. During each class, we review basic English structures. The aim of each class is to shore-up the holes in the foundation of their grammar understanding and help them build confidence.

In addition to these extra classes I occasionally fill-in as an English Corner teacher for the school’s youngest students (five years old). We practice image recognition and vocabulary. If needed, I also help monitor classes during exams, design and put-up English teaching materials on the school’s notice boards, and I help run the bus route that takes me and thirty students to and from the school each day.

Though some days at the school are more exhausting than others, the more effort I put into this work experience, the more rewarding and enjoyable my days are.

The Course: Training and Support during the Work Experience

The same might be said of the Expert in Bilingual Education (EBE) course that I and many other participants are taking as part of our work experience program. Depending on the program placement we accept with Meddeas (Advanced, Graduate or Speakers), we’ll enroll in one of the different university courses. As I accepted a placement in the Advanced program, I’m taking the EBE, while participants in either the Graduate or Speakers take a TEFL course as part of their work experience.

How the Course Can Help Participants in their Daily Tasks

However, where the course is concerned, I would encourage a more balanced approach than just the rote investment of your time. The EBE course is the most demanding of the options Meddeas offers, but it can also be very helpful to your role if you take the time to tailor the work in such a way as to augment what you are already doing in your school.

Like all the course options Meddeas includes in the work experience, the EBE course requires us to complete bi-weekly assignments, which we upload to the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya website for grading. The due dates for these assignments are usually followed by an online tutorial session during which we check in with our course tutor, discuss our work experience in our respective schools, and share any questions or concerns we have with the rest of our course group.

relevant work experience

Taking time to explore as well

Tutorials and Assignments Help Me Plan Lessons

The tutorials, at least for my class, have been very low-stress meetings, designed primarily as a way to discuss and share teaching ideas and seek support if we need it. The assignments themselves range from short essays to lesson plans, and each takes me anywhere from three to five days of steady work (four hours per day) to complete (take into account that I work rather slowly and currently do not have a functioning laptop). Though some of the lesson topics are quite academic and abstract, the language and teaching theory we have been exposed to is current and interesting.

I have been able to use the information I’ve encountered through my work on the course to brainstorm activities and teaching approaches to implement in my classes. Any activities or ideas I cannot use now in the work experience I plan to save for my future as a teacher. Though the assignments aren’t always directly always applicable to my classes, it has been easy to take the work I’ve done and develop it into activities that are suitable for a number of class levels and teaching situations.

Is the Workload in the Course Reasonable?

As a recent college graduate, I have found the work on the course to be manageable and not nearly as stressful as I anticipated. Overall, the pace of the course and its content help me contextualize my work experience here in Spain and understand how my efforts fit in to the greater world of teaching English as a foreign language. Given all this, I am very happy that I decided to do the advanced program. I enjoy having regular assignments to complete and I feel that I am constantly learning something new. Even with the time the course requires, I have been able to give several private lessons, travel often, and simply enjoy Seville on many weekends.

professional work experience seville

Rainbow in Seville

I would recommend the EBE course to other Meddeas participants, with one stipulation: I am a person who genuinely enjoys school. I like reading and writing; it makes me feel engaged and productive in a work environment. So, if that doesn’t sound like you, be honest with yourself. Do you love teaching? Are you interested in Education and/or teaching? Do you think this might be (in some form) what you want to do with the rest of your life? If the answer is yes, the EBE course is a good decision. If the answer is no, don’t worry. You know yourself best. Choose the course option that seems like the right fit for you and the year you imagine spending in Spain.

Explore, Engage, and Have Fun to Make the Most of the Work Experience

I love my teaching experience and life in Spain, which has a lot to do with the staff and students I see every day. Seville is a wonderful city, but having visited many other towns in Spain, there are many places I would have been glad to be placed. Teach hard at your school and put the necessary effort into your chosen course, but don’t forget to look around and enjoy everything you have at your fingertips as a young expat in Spain. Explore, engage, and have fun! Let your life as a traveler abroad energize your role as a conversation assistant and student.

2017/18 Posted by Maggie F.

If you enjoyed this post about how this work experience abroad runs, don’t miss out the following articles:

  1. How to Fit into Schools in Spain: 12 Tips to Blend In with Colleagues and Students
  2. Teaching ESL in Spain: A Day in the Life at Zalima
  3. How Being a Bad Language Learner Helped Me be a Better ESL Teacher
  4. Life After Meddeas: Now I Have a TEFL Certification and a Fantastic Experience

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What is Like Living in a Small Town in Spain? Some Advice to Adapt Quickly

Elizabeth T., who is currently a Meddeas Language Assistant, is living in a small town in Spain. She graduated with a dual degree in Spanish and Children’s Advocacy from UMASS Amherst in May 2017. Here she talks about her experience in Southern Spain and provides some advice to adapt to this rural environment.

The Experience Teaching and Living in a Small Town in Spain

living in a small town in spain

Enjoying the sunset in Huelva

I come from a coastal town in Massachusetts, and I am teaching in beautiful and sunny western Andalucía (I’ve escaped a snow-filled winter!). My school, Colegio Tierrallana, is located in a village in Spain called Aljaraque (Huelva), where I am teaching students aged six to eighteen. I am living with a host family in a spacious and filled-with-palm-trees neighborhood right next door: I walk two minutes to school every day. It’s super convenient for getting to my school every day and living with the host family has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in Spain. I’ve definitely learned lots from them and my Spanish has improved leaps and bounds because my host parents actually do not speak any English.

Living in a Spanish Village near the Capital of the Region

life in a spanish town

Punta Umbria beach

I’m living about a fifteen-minute walk away from the nearest bus stop needed to get to Huelva capital, the city center, and main city in the region of Huelva. Huelva itself is a small city surrounded by numerous small towns. One of the most well-known is Punta Umbria, as it is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike in the spring and summer time.

The city center of Huelva is bustling with life. It has a very large shopping center, universities, numerous restaurants and bars, shops, and quaint cafes (which are perfect for having a tea or coffee and grading papers). It also has a train station and a bus station with service to the surrounding towns of Huelva and to further destinations such as Seville (one hour away), Portugal (one hour away), Madrid (six hours away), etc.

It does take me a total of around twenty-five minutes walking and riding the bus to reach the city center. Though Huelva itself is not unlike many other Spanish cities* due to its size or the numerous things there are to do, living outside of the city center is a different experience completely. At times, it can be a bit inconvenient to have to rely on public transport when wanting to visit the city center. For example, it’s not the best when I want to have dinner with friends in Huelva.

*Only 6 cities in Spain have more than 500,000 inhabitants (Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla,
Zaragoza, and Málaga) and that there are 56 cities in Spain which have between 100,000
and 500,000 inhabitants. Huelva capital counts with 145,000 inhabitants.

Some Advice to Adapt to Life in a Spanish Town

After a few months living in a village in Andalucía, here is my advice when it comes to living in a small town in Spain:

1. Befriend Your Neighbors: the First Step to Immerse into the Small-Town Life in Spain

spanish rural towns

My neighborhood

Saying hello in the mornings goes a long way. It’s a perfect way to practice your Spanish and neighbors can give you advice for enjoying the area. In my experience, everyone in my neighborhood is very friendly and willing to say hello. It can help to make you feel less lonely.

2. Go to Your Host Family for Advice

If you are living with a host family, seek advice for enjoying the area with them. Suggest a family outing or play outside with their children. They’ll be happy to fill you in and show you around.

3. Befriend the Other Teachers at Your School

Teachers at my school have been excellent resources for learning about activities to do in the area. They’re often willing to get coffee and chat after school and it has helped lots with my adjustment to life here.

living in a spanish village

Exploring Seville with Meddeas Language Assistant, Jenny

4. Travel Often If You are Able

Your experience in Spain doesn’t have to be limited to the small Spanish town where you live. Try and research ways to travel on the weekends, even if it’s only a short bus ride to explore the next town over. Make it a priority to have an adventure, big or small, to look forward to every week. Last week, my adventure was exploring areas unfamiliar to me in the city center of Huelva. This week, I’m visiting Seville with a friend. It really helps to break up what can sometimes be a bit monotonous.

5. Research Things to Do in Your Spanish Village or the Next City over

I was definitely missing dance my first few months here, so I found a place that offered Salsa and Bachata classes; as well as open dancing with a DJ over the weekends. Friends of mine have signed up for yoga classes, Spanish conversation exchanges, cooking, etc. Ask around, hop on the internet, look for flyers, etc. You’re bound to find something you’ll enjoy.

small spanish town

With my new friend Edwina, an international student

6. Go to Events for Study Abroad/Erasmus Students

Going to events for international students and checking out groups for them on Facebook, Meetup.com, etc. has helped a lot. It’s a great way to make friends abroad and find activities for young people near you. There are often trips for study abroad students as well (at discounted prices). I recently went on a trip to Cadiz for Carnival and met lovely people from Armenia, Hungary, Scotland, and Mexico.

7. Find Something to be Grateful for Every Day

Whether it’s the peace and quiet, an amazing host family, long walks, or beautiful sunsets, there is always something to be grateful for. Even if it may be a little too quiet at times, the experience really is what you make of it.

I would recommend living in any city in Spain, big or small, because there is something that can be learned from all experiences. Of course, it does have the potential to be a bit inconvenient to live in a smaller neighborhood. In my experience, it’s been amazing for getting to school every day, but more difficult for exploring.

Living in a Small Town in Spain vs. City Life, by Rebecca E.

small town life in spain

Enjoying nature in the outskirts of Madrid

Living in the countryside versus living in the city is a long-standing debate. Hustle and bustle versus peace and quiet. Technology versus nature. Skyscrapers versus cottages.

Moving abroad gives you the chance to start afresh in a new country. Living in a small town in Spain, as in any other country, has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s have a look at some of them.

Advantages of Living in a Spanish Village

Real Language Immersion and Possibilities to Practice Spanish

Chances are that if you move to a big city like Madrid, you’ll find that a lot of people speak English. This is because there are lots of tourists there and there is a more international environment compared to a smaller town on the outskirts.  Of course, if you want to speak English all the time then that’s perfect. However, if you’d prefer to improve your Spanish and be more immersed in the culture, living in a small town in Spain could be the answer. In small towns there are fewer tourists and expats, so you’ll be able to practice your Spanish everywhere, from the local pub to the supermarket to the bus stop.

Quicker to Settle In Compared to a Massive City

If it’s your first time living in Spain, you’ll find that there are a few things you need to adapt to. For example, later meal times, greeting everyone with kisses, and expecting people to arrive late. All these things are interesting and, with time, become a normal part of everyday life. However, if you also need to try to navigate a massive city with multiple metro lines and crowded streets, it could all be a bit too much. Therefore, by living in a small town in Spain you can more quickly get to know your way around and feel more at home; even if you haven’t yet managed to master all of the cultural differences.

Cheaper Cost of Living

By living out of the city center, you’ll be able to get more for your money. Firstly, you’ll be able to save money on rent, bills, and groceries. Furthermore, since you aren’t in touristy areas, restaurants, bars, and shops won’t have inflated prices. Instead, you can enjoy the same lower price that the locals pay.

Disadvantages of Living in a Spanish Village

villages in spain

Visiting Salamanca, a small city a few hours from Madrid

Fewer Facilities and Events on Weekends

Once you feel settled in and have been on placement for a few months, you may find that you’re looking for new challenges and adventures. If you live in a small town, you may find that there aren’t as many facilities or opportunities to try new things every weekend. Furthermore, festivals, concerts, and sports events are more likely to occur in the big cities than in the smaller towns. However, moving around in Spain is pretty easy and convenient.

Commuting to the City to Enjoy Nightlife or Meet with Some Friends

When there is an event on in the city or you want to meet up with some friends at a central point, you might find yourself traveling into the city center. Luckily, in Spain, public transport is quite cheap. Depending on where exactly you live and the region, it can take more or less time to travel into the city. Also, you will find that you will be limited with regard to the time you want to spend there, as the trains and buses are unlikely to run all through the night. So, if you like to enjoy nightlife or late night shopping at the weekend, living in a small town could complicate this a bit.

Less Variety to Try Something New or International Food

Although immersing yourself completely in the Spanish culture is really fun and rewarding, sometimes you might want some home comforts or even just to try something different. Unfortunately, in most villages, there isn’t a great choice of international restaurants and high street shops. Therefore, you might get a little tired of always eating the same food or shopping in the same places. Conversely, in bigger towns and cities, there is much more variety. As well as being able to try international food, for example, you’ll probably be able to visit somewhere that sells products from your home country. This can be great if you’re celebrating one of your own national holidays or if you feel a bit homesick.

So, whether or not to live in a small town in Spain is a difficult decision as there are arguments on both sides. Overall, wherever you decide to live in Spain has the potential to become your second home and win a place in your heart. That’s because the Spanish people are welcoming and warm and the Spanish culture is rich and enchanting.

Please let us know if you have any tips for making this big decision by commenting below!

2017/18 Posted by Elizabeth T. and Rebecca E.

If you enjoyed this post about what living in a small town in Spain is like, don’t miss out the following articles:

  1. Cost of Living in Spain: Housing, Travel, and Food
  2. Low-Cost Travel: Top Tips to Travel Spain on a Budget
  3. Recipe for Happiness: Sunshine, People, and Food in Spain
  4. Teaching and Living in Spain for a Year After College: Girona

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Cost of Living in Spain: Housing, Travel, and Food

One of the biggest worries when moving to a new country is how far your money will go. Will you need to find a part-time job? Will you be able to travel? Those are some questions I asked myself when considering the cost of living in Spain.

The Cost of Living in Spain Compared to Other Countries: Main Expenses

One year after graduating from Fontbonne University, I made the decision to leave the US and fulfill my dream of living abroad. I spent the next three years in Japan before making my way over to Spain. Although the initial knowledge of receiving less money than what I was receiving in Asia was a bit of a bummer (keep in mind the Meddeas grant is quite good compared to what beginner teachers in Spain make), I didn’t realize how much cheaper things would be in Spain. When comparing the cost of living in Spain vs USA or even Japan, you realize the first is much lower. Even in Cataluña, which is not the cheapest place to live in Spain as things tend to be more expensive than in other Spanish regions, the grant has been plenty for living comfortably and being able to go out enjoy myself.

Cost of living in Spain

On a trip to Madrid (Parque del Retiro)

How Much Does it Cost to Live in Spain? Looking Prices Over

The three main things I will be speaking about to describe the cost of living in Spain are housing, travel, and food.  I’m teaching in a school in Lleida, a medium size city in Cataluña with 140,000 inhabitants. Thus, prices here refer to life in a smaller city, in an independent living situation.

Housing Information for Expats in Spain

how expensive is Spain

Budgeting my expenses

Housing is an important thing to consider because this will be your home for the next year. I was lucky enough to make friends with people who had also just arrived in our city. After two weeks searching, we managed to find a wonderful place and even managed to haggle the price down an additional €50. My three flatmates and I each pay €175 with approximately €30 for utilities. Of course, keep in mind that this is in a smaller city. A small or medium size could be considered the best cities to live in Spain in terms of expenses.

In a larger city, expect to pay twice or even three times more for a shared flat. If you’re living on your own in a similarly sized city, you could expect to be paying €300+ for a one person flat. Although I had previously been living on my own in Japan and loved the privacy, I would highly recommend sharing a flat. Otherwise, you will be spending a half of your grant on housing alone.

Some numbers to show the cost of living in Spain when talking about housing:

Internet – €10*

Utilities – €30*

Rent – €175 a month*

*per person (4 people total)

(Approximately 20% of the Meddeas grant)

Travel: How Expensive is Spain?

There are many means of travel within Spain. Public transport can vary greatly between cities. I typically use the bus to move between work and school a few times a week and the price is standard across bus usage in the city.

cost of living in Spain vs USA

Christmas Markets in Cologne, Germany

On the weekends I tend to travel. So I’m always looking for the most convenient and efficient way to go. Low-cost travel in Spain is possible. If you shop early enough you can usually find a deal on high-speed trains. However, this isn’t always the best method of travel as it’s expensive and the lines aren’t always well connected. For example, when I wanted to go to Valencia I would first have to travel to Barcelona then take the train to Valencia. This is where Blablacar is a better option.

Blablacar is a ride-sharing service for people traveling between cities. You share a car with multiple people and pricing is affordable. You should consider the price and time spent in commute between Blablacar and the high-speed train. For me, I save around €25 taking a Blablacar to Barcelona and only take 45 minutes longer. But, for a trip to Madrid, I would save €50 but at the expense of spending 3 extra hours in commute. In the latter case, spending a bit more is worth it for me to have extra time in the city.

Some numbers to show how much it costs me to travel from and inside Lleida:

Bus fare – €2 a trip (€24 for monthly pass)

High-Speed Train to Barcelona- ~€37 – €43

High-Speed Train to Madrid ~€73 – €100

Blablacar to Barcelona – €11

Blablacar to Madrid – €28

Food: Prices According to the Standard of Living in Spain

average income in Spain

Walking around Mercadona, a supermarket in Spain

I lucked out that both breakfast and lunch are provided at my school at no cost (don’t you expect this to happen in your school, it is an exceptional situation). Dinner is also something that I worry little about since my three flatmates and I cook together. If you’re looking to save money then making a floor fund is the method I recommend. Every week my flatmates and I put around €10-20 into the fund for groceries. These €40-80 go a long way at the grocery store towards buying food for the week. Since we cook together, we are able to make large batches of food that will last us at least a couple of meals.

I’ve found the cost of groceries in Spain to be more affordable than those in the US and Japan. However, some items like meat tend to cost more than back home. It also helps that, since the portion sizes are smaller, here we generally don’t need to buy as much.

Some examples of things we frequently buy, which clearly reflect the cost of living in Spain, include:

Oranges/Bananas – €1 / kilogram

Coca-Cola – €0.76 / 2 liter bottle

Bottle of Wine – €1.50 – €7 (average around €2.50)

Milk – €0.80 / liter

Yogurt – €1.20 (pack of 6)

Ground Coffee – €4.76 / kilogram (2 pack = 250 grams = €1.20)

Freshly Baked Baguette – €1.73 / kilogram (3 Baguettes = 1 kilogram)

Eggs – €1.35 / dozen

When it comes to food, the worst thing you can do is continue to eat like back home. The most cost-effective way is to live like a local. You’ll save a lot of money in the long run. My roommates and I decided to have a Mexican food night once. Hunting down the ingredients necessary for some traditional Mexican meals, led to a lot of headaches and spending more than we had hoped. Although it’s nice to have a taste of home, it is far too much work and not economical when the ingredients are not readily available.

The Cost of Going out with Friends: Drink and Tapas

expats in Spain

Out with friends for tapas and drinks

Of course, I can’t leave out my favorite part of living in Spain: going out with friends for drink and tapas. The price of beer is cheaper here than back home in the US and, with no tipping necessary, we can go out a few times a week without breaking the bank.

Beer – €1-€1.50

Tapas – €1-€3

These are just some examples to show the cost of living in Spain when it comes to basic necessities. The rest will vary from person to person. Some of you may be fans of shopping, I personally am not. But I seem to find that clothes are cheaper or similar priced as back home. In terms of buying electronics, they tend to be more expensive in Spain. Other than that, it’s all about budgeting and prioritizing your expenses.

Some things will be consistent, like housing expenses (be wary of heating costs in the wintertime!) and groceries, if you typically buy the same things a week. Others will vary greatly, such as going out to eat or traveling to another country. Bear in mind that, when talking about the cost of living in Europe, there are huge differences between countries.

Money Saving Tips Regarding the Cost of Living in Spain

  1. Share a flat with others your age. It’s a great way to save money and be sociable.
  2. Make a floor fund with flatmates so buy larger quantities of groceries (potatoes, tomatoes, bread).
  3. Eat like the locals. Don’t eat like back home.
  4. Start out conservatively the first few months. See what can be cut and what you can afford to do.
  5. Use Blablacar. If you make frequent trips to certain cities, ask the driver or fellow riders if they are part of a Whatsapp/Facebook group of people that travel between your city and that city. You could be saving money by contacting drivers directly.

Definitely, keep track the first few months and see where you can cut costs. The first two months or so will be an adventure in learning how to live and what to buy. Thus, shop around with some friends who have more experience living in your region and you’ll have lots of advice for living affordably.  All in all the Meddeas grant is enough to cover housing, travel, and still have extra to go out and do things.

The Cost of Living in Big Cities in Spain is Higher: Madrid, by Nicole G.

I expected to find the cost of living in Spain around the same as at home. However, it’s been surprisingly affordable considering that Madrid, where I’m placed, is supposedly the most expensive city in Spain. It turns out that Bristol is the 16th most expensive city in the whole of Europe and probably with good reason. Let’s compare some prices.

best place to live in Spain

On a visit to Granada (La Alhambra in the background)

Rent in the UK Compared to Spain

In Bristol, I paid £450 (€502.77) a month including bills for a double bedroom Monday to Friday in a three-bedroom house. The landlord would return at the weekend, at which point I needed to vacate and return to my parents’ house. Therefore, I also needed to pay £16 (€18) a week for travel there and back. We had a cleaner visit once every 2 weeks included with the rent.

In Madrid, I pay €424 a month for a single bedroom in a 7 bedroom apartment. It’s all inclusive of bills and the apartment is set out in a university housing style with no shared living room. However, the room is quite large and I have a sofa, a TV, a large fridge, and all furnishings (also bedding) included in the price. We have a cleaner who comes once a week and even changes my bed sheets, so I think this is definitely a good value for money.

Public Transport in Madrid

The public transport system in Bristol is okay, but it’s certainly not up to Madrid standards. As a result, if I found myself running late for something and I needed to get there urgently, I had to shell out for Uber’s a few times a month which definitely bumped up what I would pay for transport. Aside from that, I paid £48 (€55) a month for a bus pass.

In comparison, in Madrid, I buy the tarjeta de transporte público and top this up once a month for €20. The card lasts for 30 days for unlimited trips on the metro and on the buses. The public transport runs frequently and on time here (and runs until 2 am!), so I haven’t needed to take any taxis yet. Madrid definitely beats Bristol here with a massive €100 a month saving.

Cost of Food in Madrid

expats living in Spain

A view of la Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Food is probably where I’ve seen the least difference in expense between the UK and Spain, but that’s not to say I don’t still save considerably. In Bristol, there are big supermarkets all over the city. However, in Madrid, you need to travel out of the city to find the bigger markets. When I first moved to Madrid, I assumed that this meant the food was going to be more expensive, (fellow Brits think Co-op or Spa prices!) but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

In Madrid, bread costs me approximately €0.83 compared to around 85p (€0.95) in the UK. A liter of Soy Milk costs me around £1.70 (2.02€), compared to around 1.60€ in Madrid. In total, I spent around 15€ a week on groceries in Madrid compared to about £20 (€23) a week in Bristol. My favorite saving, however, has got to be on a bottle of red wine. A cheap bottle of wine in the UK costs around £5 (€7), whereas I can find an equally good bottle of wine for around 2€ in Spain.

In a bar in Madrid, a glass of wine costs anywhere from €1-€3. The more touristic the bar, the more expensive the wine, but it’s always generally quite cheap compared to what I’m used to. Also, when you order a drink in Spain you get tapas for free, which saves some money compared to the snacks you end up buying in the UK.

To sum up, everything in Spain just seems cheaper than it was in the UK. I’m earning a little less than I would have been in the UK, but my money goes a lot further and I don’t find living in Spain any more expensive. In short, living in Madrid has been cheaper for me than living at home in the UK. On the Meddeas grant, I can live comfortably and travel, which is something I likely not be able to do at home on the same wage. ¡Viva España!

2017/18 Posted by Carlos G. and Nicole G.

If you enjoyed this post about the cost of living in Spain, don’t miss out the following articles:

  1. Low-Cost Travel: Top Tips to Travel Spain on a Budget
  2. Five Things to Do in Barcelona on a Language Assistant Burget
  3. Free Things in Madrid

Everything You Need to Know About the Spain Student Visa Application Process

To become a Language Assistant in Spain with Meddeas, non-European citizens in our 9-month programs need to a get a long-term Spain student visa (valid for over 180 days).  Applying and getting a student visa for Spain (or another country) can be a daunting and technically difficult process. “When I first began the process, I was unsure where to begin and every source of information seemed to tell me something different. I was told by many that submitting my Spain student visa application would be a stressful experience. It doesn’t have to be this way! I received a lot of help from many people throughout my application process, and it made all the difference,”  says Margaret F., Meddeas’ Language Assistant in a school in Dos Hermanas, Sevilla.

The Spain Student Visa Application Process Varies Depending on Countries

Language Assistants from different countries, such as the US, New Zealand, Australia, or South Africa, have outlined some experiences, given advice, and compiled a list of all the materials needed for the Spain visa appointment. The information given reflects individual cases, not general processes, thus it shouldn’t be taken for granted. It is important to always contact the consulate and/or check out its official website. 

Spain Visa for US citizens

To begin applying for a visa for Spain from US., you first need to find out which consulate caters to your residential area. Once you’ve located your Consulate, you’ll generally need to make an appointment (this may be through email, calling, or an online sign-up process). You can refer to the Consulate’s website in order to find the documents you’ll need.

How to Get a Visa for Spain in the Consulate of New York, by Margaret F.

Spain student visa

Margaret with a nice view of Sevilla

One way to make sure your visa is processed in a timely manner is to make sure you include all the materials that your consulate requires. What are the Spain student visa requirements? The following list details what I turned in to the consulate in New York, and was made using the list on their site and those of a few other consulates, just in case.

1) A Cover Letter (OPTIONAL): I chose to include in my application packet a short letter (one copy in English, one in Spanish) explaining some extenuating circumstances. This is optional. I did, however, use the letter as a way of easily slipping in my email address and telephone number, which the consulate requires for correspondence purposes. Including a cover letter can also allow you to clarify anything about your application that may appear unusual, or to make any special requests in a professional and polite manner.

2) A Filled-Out Spain Visa Application Form (printed from the consulate website)

3) Your Original Passport: Because you are required to turn in your real passport to the consulate while the visa is being processed, you need to plan ahead.

4) Quality Passport Photographs: These are easily acquired at any airport, at various convenience stores, Target, etc. The consulate only needs one photo, but make sure you get extra. I got four photos, two of which I gave to the consulate (just in case) and two others that I took to Spain (you will need them again for the TIE appointment to get your foreigner card once you arrive).

5) Letter from Your Program: Meddeas will send it to you.

6) Letter Confirming Insurance Coverage. Check the requirements.

7) FBI Background Check: I applied and was accepted into Meddeas in late April. Therefore, it was necessary for me to use an expediting service for my FBI background check. This cost me about $200 total, which is not ideal. It is possible to request a background check straight through the FBI for much less, but this is a process that may include delays and that you must begin about two months in advance of your Spain student visa appointment. So, again, planning ahead is essential. Some consulates give you the choice of using a state or federal background check, but I would recommend just the federal check. State background checks do not work for all consulates. Bear in mind that Meddeas requires the FBI (national background check). Apply to get 2 copies in case the consulate keeps one. (The one for the consulate has to be apostilled and translated, the copy for Meddeas doesn’t).

8) Photocopy of State ID, Driver’s License, Student ID, or other Proof of Residency: As a non-New York resident applying at the New York consulate, I had to use my university student ID and a printed enrollment certificate from my university’s Registrar office to prove my residency. For any ID you choose, make sure you photocopy both sides of the card and make sure you print a high-quality scan.

9) Medical Form: The medical form is a letter from your doctor stating that you are in good health to travel and live abroad. The letter can include any of the health information your doctor deems necessary, but it must also include the following words: the student has been examined and found in good physical and mental health to travel to study abroad and is free of contagious diseases or any other illnesses which could lead to public health repercussions according to the International Sanitary Regulations-2005 of the World Health Organization. I am a registered resident of Northern California and my medical insurance only directly covers me when I am there. When applying for my visa, I was in New York City attending university. If you, for whatever reason, need to visit a walk-in clinic, call ahead. Some walk-in places will not be willing or able to give you the check and letter you need. You may be able to get your physical check done in the health office at your school, but visit or call the consulate first to be sure that they will accept a university health center’s letter.

10) Pre-Paid Envelope for Passport and Visa: I included this because I needed the visa mailed back to me from New York to California. I got the envelope weighed and paid for at my local post office. If it’s not urgent or impossible, we recommend to collect it as it’s not uncommon to get it lost in the mail.

11) Notarized Authorization Letter: From your parents stating their approval of the application for the visa if you are under 18 years old.

12) Money Order: A compulsory payment for the visa processing charges. It was about $180 for me. To get this, go to the post office a day or so before your appointment. The consulate will provide payment details (who the order should be addressed to) on their site.

After Getting the Visa for Spain from the USA

For all who are lucky enough to apply there, the New York consulate is awesome. It doesn’t require to make an appointment. Moreover, I turned in all my paperwork to the consulate on May 22nd and got my visa in the mail in California on June 6th. Timing depends on the consulate assigned to your region, so check in advance and plan accordingly.

When you receive your passport back (in person or through the mail) you are going to find your temporary visa affixed to one of the pages. Your Spain student visa will be a long-stay visa, called an estancia visa, and it will state that it is valid for only 90 days after you arrive in Spain. This is correct; so don’t panic when you receive a visa that expires part-way through your program duration. As long as your visa says estancia, is a visa type-D, and is valid for 90 days, your application was processed correctly. The number at the bottom of your visa, called the NIE number, will become critical when you apply for your official foreigner card, the TIE, in Spain (if you do not have an NIE number on your visa, contact Meddeas). You must apply for this TIE card after your arrival in Spain but before your 90-day visa expires. The TIE application is another story, but something I am happy to help with as well. If you have any questions, comment below!

How to Get a Visa for Spain in the Consulate of Chicago, by Tessa G.

spain visa for US citizens

Amazing view of Barcelona from top of Castell de Montjuïc, Tessa

My name is Tessa! I am from Chicago, Illinois, and currently doing the Graduate Program with Meddeas in a school in Spain. As a non-EU citizen traveling to Spain and staying for over 90 days, you need to obtain a U.S. passport and student visa to teach in Spain. The golden rule when applying for these types of documents and preparing for traveling abroad in general, especially for an extended amount of time, is time management.

Here I want to highlight the steps in the visa process needed to teach in Spain and the Spain visa requirements for US citizens. These are the ones I consider most time sensitive and I’ve experienced in Chicago’s consulate.

Step 1: U.S. Passport

If you do not have a U.S. passport book this is the first thing you need to apply for as it can take around 4-6 weeks.

Step 2: Criminal History/Background Check

You need to obtain a Federal Issued Criminal History Background report. It cannot be older than 3 months from the application date. Check your state police’s website and see if they have a list of approved vendors where you can call and ask for the info. This has probably been one of the most stressful parts of any student visa I have applied for because background checks can take time to process, vendor locations and prices vary, many people aren’t exactly sure on the process for visas so don’t expect them to be very knowledgeable on the process. After you receive your check you need to send it to Washington to have it legalized with the Apostille of the Hague Convention by the US Department of State in Washington DC, which took about 2 weeks in my case. So yeah, this takes a whileeeeeee….

Step 3: Spain Visa Appointment

My experience was with the Spanish consulate located in Chicago. They only accept appointments made online and you can make them in far in advance as 3 months prior to departure. The visa processing time is 4 weeks, and they mean four weeks! They offer no expedited service. Thus, calculate 10 extra days if you are not picking it up in person and having it mailed to you instead.

Other Documents

The acceptance letter and evidence of funds are provided by Meddeas and they mailed these to my home in plenty of enough time in advance. Other documents needed for the visa, like the photo, health insurance, medical certificate, visa form, etc. can be done at your pace.

Meddeas was very supportive throughout this entire process and will often send you information packets and emails, so read through them. The Meddeas Facebook group (private) is also an incredibly helpful resource where you can exchange questions and experience with other assistants that are on the same journey as you. If any other doubts arise email the Meddeas team, they are always willing to help and answer promptly.

Quick Tips for US Citizens Getting a Student Visa for Spain, by Mariah G.

visa for spain from USA

Mariah G.: Barcelona

Mariah G. is an English language assistant in Barcelona, Spain. She loves to write, travel, and meet new people. Her blog is a compilation of her experiences abroad and her first time teaching English as a foreign language. Check out the blog for tips and anecdotes about working and living away from home. Below her tips:

  • Remember that not all consulates are the same. Each consulate has its own requirements. Do a quick Google search to figure out which consulate you should go to and make sure you quadruple-check their list of requirements.
  • Print multiple copies of your necessary documents and organize them with labels and binder clips. I made labels out of post its and it saved me the panic of searching for documents when I was at my visa appointment.
  • Give yourself time. Don’t book your appointment at the last minute. Remember, you need to wait at least a month to get your Spain student visa after you hand in the application. This means that you have to surrender your passport and put all of your travel plans on hold. I booked my appointment for two months before my departure and it gave me enough time to get my documents sorted and to receive my visa before my trip.
  • Don’t panic. As hard as this may be, remember that many people apply for visas every day. If they can do it, you can too. 
  • Take in the experience with open arms. Take the good, the bad, and the ugly, and understand that the visa process helps you grow. You learn how to be responsible, timely, and diligent. You will get through it!

Spain Visa for South African citizens, by Carrie F.

I was accepted into the program and was delighted to be placed in the city of Bilbao. Meddeas was extremely helpful in guiding the visa application process and very promptly sent my acceptance letter via postal mail to South Africa, Cape Town. I hope that this information will help future Language Assistants from South Africa applying for their visas to Spain. It was a fairly easy process overall, however took quite some time as there were a lot of courier deliveries involved.

I applied for my Spain Student Visa at the Spanish consulate in Cape Town (the address is 37 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town). Thankfully, I was not required to make an appointment beforehand; it was a walk-in application process. The consulate is open between 9:00 – 14:00 on weekdays. Once your application is submitted, it will take approximately 10 days to be processed before you may collect your visa. I received an email notifying me that it was ready – if you have not heard anything within that period, I would send an email to the consulate to follow up. They are generally quite helpful over email. This application cost me R871 (ZAR – South African Rand) at the time.

Although the process for the visa application only took 10 days, I highly recommend you do not leave this to the last minute. It was not the visa that took the time; it was the preparation of the documents required that took the most time. I will go into further detail on these Spain student visa requirements below.

spain student visa application

A photo of my classroom (with a touch of South Africa), as we are currently working on an International Fair day and one of my classes has chosen to do Cape Town, my hometown

Documents Required for a Visa in Cape Town’s Consulate

  • Acceptance letter: You are required to have the original acceptance letter (which Meddeas sends at the time of confirming you into the program) when you submit your application at the consulate. Meddeas had sent this via normal postage service.
  • Criminal Clearance Certificate: I applied for this at a police station in Cape Town, and it cost me R100. I had to send this document with my fingerprints to Pretoria (the Pretoria address is given to you by the police station). I sent mine via courier service to ensure it got to the correct address on time and I did not want to risk anything with the postal service. This is more expensive, but saves you time and is stress-free. When the certificate is ready in Pretoria, they will contact you and you need to arrange for collection. I again made use of a courier service to collect this. This certificate is valid for 6 months, so ensure you do not apply too early, as it still needs to be valid when you enter Spain.

I then had to have this certificate apostilled with an official Hague Apostille stamp. This is also done in Pretoria – I, therefore, had to send my original document to DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation) with a cover letter. Instructions on how to apply for this apostille stamp should be confirmed on their website or via email. There is a specific cover letter they require stating exactly what the apostle stamp is for, who will be collecting the document etc. There was no cost to have it apostilled, only a cost to courier it to Pretoria.

  • A medical certificate stating I had no illnesses that may be a threat to Spain was also required and I had to follow the same procedures as above (getting it approved by the SA government with an official Hague Apostille stamp). I got a medical certificate from my local doctor who signed and stated that I had no illnesses posing a threat. I had to get this approved by the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa) first, before sending it to DIRCO. The HPCSA is also based in Pretoria, so I had to use a courier to send it to the HPCSA. This HPCSA stamp/approval cost me about R400.00. When the certificate was ready (it took about a week), I had a courier collect it for me.
  • Ensure that you also have insurance for the time that you will be in Spain – this is necessary to submit with your visa application, as well as a copy of your flight ticket. You do not need to have a return flight booked. The insurance plan I made use of was called Swisscare – student pass. They have an insurance plan specifically for Spain on this site.
  • You do not need to show proof of financial means via bank statements, as your acceptance letter will state that you will be earning a monthly income and will state how much. This is sufficient for them to accept that you are financially able to be in Spain.

I then had to send the documents (the medical certificate and criminal clearance certificate) to DIRCO to be apostilled. This process took some time (about a month), due to it being required to be sent across the country to more than one location and waiting for it to be returned.

Once this was returned to me in Cape Town, I had to have these documents translated into Spanish by an official translator thereafter. The Spanish consulate will email you with a list of reputable contacts. I highly recommend getting quotes from all of the contacts, as I found some contacts were highly overpriced compared to others. The contact I used was a private business owner who worked from home, and she was the cheapest out of all of the contacts referred to by the consulate.

Once your visa is ready, it can be collected at the consulate. You can have it delivered to you at a fee, but it is quicker to go and collect it yourself.

Tips to Get the Visa in South Africa

  • As we are required to have original criminal certificates and medical letters when we land in Spain, you will need to ask the consulate to give your original documents back to you. They will only do so if you have copies to replace the originals with. Ensure you have copies of everything before you submit your application. You will need to request these originals – they do not automatically return everything to you. When you collect your visa, you only receive your passport back from the consulate.
  • The visa is valid for 3 months, so you will need to apply for your residence card as soon as you are in your designated city. The residence card will be valid for the period stated in your acceptance letter. You will have to leave Europe after this card expires.
  • As South Africans are required to have visas to travel within Europe, the benefit of having this residence card is that you can travel within Europe freely, as you are considered as a Spanish resident. Huge plus for us!

Apply now!

Spain Visa for Australian citizens, by Alex M.

getting a student visa for spain

Alex M. with her students in Spain

I was studying part-time, one year from finishing my degree, when a Spanish friend of mine told me about this program. Being Australian, I thought the new school year meant January or February of 2017. No, she later told me, next year meant September of that year. I was shocked but I started to think about the possibility of going to Spain in the next few months. I looked online at applying for a work visa, but I later realized that it is virtually impossible for a non-EU citizen to work in Spain.

As soon as I was accepted, the documents from Meddeas made it very easy to understand how to move forward. I began the process of applying for a student visa from the Spanish consulate.

This would prove to be one of the most frustrating processes I’ve ever been through. At that time I was unfamiliar with the Spanish way of doing things. I didn’t realize that it would be very normal that the consulate would never pick up the phone to answer your questions; they would not answer your questions even if you went to the consulate in person, and they would close every day at 2 pm and would not open again until the next day.

Firstly I had to find the Spain student visa requirements and I did this by emailing the Spanish consulate in Sydney. They will not give you any information in any other way. They attach a document with the information and a form to fill out in English called the Application for National Visa. You need to book an appointment with them by email as soon as you can because they can be over a month away depending on the time of year. You will also need the following documents and things:

  • Your filled out Spain visa application form.
  • One passport size photograph with a light background glued to your application form.
  • Your passport which should not expire in the time you are overseas.
  • Proof of funds (which in our case the official document from Meddeas, stamped, saying our period of work experience and how much we will be earning, which should equal more than 700 AUD per month).
  • Your return flight from Spain to Australia. You must book this before you leave. In my case, no flights were available over a year in advance so I had to move my flight later.
  • Travel insurance for the whole duration of your stay in Spain. This has to cover medical costs and repatriation associated with an accident or sudden illness.
  • A paper signed or stamped by your local GP saying the following [insert name] does not have any of the diseases that could harm the public health according to THE INTERNATIONAL HEALTH REGULATIONS (2005) and is fit to travel. It is best to go to your regular doctor for this and explain that this is a formality for the visa. They may wish to give you a checkup.
  • A National Police Certificate covering all states of Australia and if you have lived overseas they will also require a police clearance check from those countries where the applicant has lived in the past 5 years. This will involve taking fingerprints at your local police station and these will be forwarded to the National Police. It is important to do this as soon as possible because it can take over a month to receive the paper. You have to apply for this online and it costs 99 AUD.

With all these, you must also bring the non-refundable visa application fee of 91.20 AUD in cash. It must be exactly as the consulate cannot give you any change. This fee may change over time, so check this with the information the consulate has sent you.

As I was very short of time, I had my appointment a month before I was to leave. It is better to give it two months. I was lucky that my passport with my visa inside was ready to pick up in a week. In busier periods it can take longer than this.

Spain Visa for New Zealand citizens, by Rebecca K.

Spain Visa for New Zealand citizens

Rebecca visiting Valencia

I’m Rebecca from New Zealand and I am currently assigned in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque country. I teach all of Primary school grades at a semi-private Catholic school.

Before coming, I went to apply for my visa in the middle of June. I didn’t make an appointment as they said that I could come with my application to the Spanish embassy in Wellington from Monday to Friday from 10 am to 1 pm. The appointment for the visa can only be done at the Embassy in Wellington. I contacted them through email as this was the only contact information I could find and they were pretty good at replying this way. The fee was $88.20 and needs to be paid in cash. I needed:

  • A police check from NZ and countries that I lived in for more than about 6 months.
  • I did not need to get an extra stamp on the police form that I was sent from the Ministry of Justice
  • Take a couple of passport size pictures.
  • I also needed to take my passport, details of accommodation, proof of acceptance into a university, proof of funds, and insurance.
  • I needed a health check to prove that you don’t have any health problems and this includes blood tests and a chest x-ray
  • Also, a pre-paid and addressed envelope for them to send the passport back. I received my passport and visa about two and a half weeks later.

The embassy was pretty easy to find, it’s in a building in the city but if you live far away from Wellington that would make it more difficult.

2017/18 Posted by Margaret F., Tessa G., Mariah G., Carrie F., Alex M., and Rebecca K.

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